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Wish You Were Here - 40 years later

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In 1975 Pink Floyd released WISH YOU WERE HERE, the much anticipated follow up to its massive-selling DARK SIDE OF THE MOON. After the success of DSOTM the band and, especially, Roger Waters (who for all purposes was the creator of almost everything in the DSOTM universe) were under tremendous pressure to release something of at least comparable quality, if not better. It remains for aficionados to determine which album is better but the general consensus is that, while DSOTM is still Floyd’s masterpiece, WYWH is no less of a marvel.

For an 11 year old, which I was at the time, WYWH was mysterious and fabulous. DSOTM will always remain enshrined as the first LP I ever bought, but both albums are firmly in the list of those mythical albums you would take with you if you were ever to be stranded in that fantasy prison island for the rest of your life. The woman I would take with me has changed through time, the food I would bring has varied and the list of books messed up with and the other 8 albums have been shuffled, but DSOTM and WYWH have always remained there.

My introduction to WYWH (you simply did not listen to it for the first time) was in a remote little town in Louisiana, where my older brother studied and lived at the time. I visited him that summer and one night, maybe the first one I was there, the album was played. My brother, considerably older than me (at 24, he was to the eyes of his younger 11 year old brother both a full grown up and somewhat of a hero figure) and considerably wiser (most of the world’s population was) played the album at full volume, with a powerful stereo system blasting the notes at a level loud enough to make the small house shake. I was immediately taken by the complexity of the music, although I was completely confused by the lyrics: Why was the Diamond crazy? To what machine were you being welcomed? And, scanning the lyrics, why were you being told to have a cigar and why would you ride a Gravy Train?
Still, I was taken by the album immediately and played it again and again throughout the long Louisiana summer (maybe my brother is not longer so fond of it because I played it once too many times). Later on, after I was corrected about the fact that WYWH was not Floyd’s second album (and therefore DSOTM was not the first) I found MEDDLE and as the band progressed, on days in which I felt particularly blue I would do a Floyd Marathon, starting with Meddle and cruising, usually with the help of some alcohol, through DSOTM, WYWH, Animals and The Wall. It never made me feel better or beat the unhappiness away but somehow it soothed me enough to remain grounded.

WYWH to me hence remains a beautiful reminder of a summer long gone, a time when I was younger and more naïve and music was transforming. Musically wise, I do grant DSOTM the lead. But the entire sadness and bluesy feeling of WYWH, coupled with the lyrics, brings it even. As I grew up I understood the words better, although to this day I am still not convinced of who the Crazy Diamond is. My theory, even after being given the Immersion Set and reading all the articles, is that it can’t be anybody else but Sid Barret, Floyd’s cofounder and whom famously left the band either because he had gone mad or was planning on doing so (he did show up during the recording of the album and grabbing a guitar asked where did he get in. Must have been uncomfortable, especially for Waters). On many occasions, as before writing this, I sit in the dark and listen to the album, waiting for that glorious, wretched, murderous/suicidal duel between Gilmour’s guitar and Wright’s keyboard that encompasses Shine on You Crazy Diamond Part VI. Never, with no other song, do I wish more I had learn to play “a mean guitar”.

But as I have grown older, WYWH had slowly peeled itself apart and have left me know why I love it so much. Always a loner, always traveling and being far away, I find that a large portion of my life has been spent Wishing You Were Here. The “YOU” changes, and morphs depending on the location and situation. I have listened to the album driving the lonely roads of Patagonia, riding a boat down the Amazon River, stationed deep in the Sahara. With a walkman in my pocket I have listened to it perched on the Caucasus and I have spent 45 minutes of skiing not hearing the “swoosh” of my skis but rather a voice telling me I am a lost soul inside a fish bowl. An emigrant, I frequently wish for my entire family and friends to be here or, the counterpart, me there. The album therefore has too many lines and too many words that remind me of not only a summer long ago, but of the little kid that I was at that time. Mostly, I guess, I Wish You Were Here, the “you" being myself, from so long ago. And as I have grown old (not necessarily UP) I feel that maybe an entire life had been spent with very few things shining on me, not because of facts of life but because of myself.

Always a quite, taciturn person, I wondered many times in my life if I could ever be a Crazy Diamond myself. And for some 40 odd minutes, WYWH lets me be.

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Updated 06-21-2015 at 11:12 AM by ponchi101